First’s are always important.
I recently heard that it can take up to 20 positive experiences to correct for a bad first impression. Many people remember the conditions of the situation where they first met their spouse or their best friend.
First’s are important in the Bible too – The first mention of something in the Bible is given special significance in interpreting it’s meaning in later instances.
It is important to note the “first commandment, with a promise.”
Exodus 20:12 says “honor your father and your mother, so that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” This scripture is referenced in Ephesians 6:2 as Paul writes, ” Honor your father and mother – which is the first commandment with a promise.”
Note a few things about this.
1. It is a commandment.
This was not a tentative suggestion. In the same way today, as you relate to your parents you are instructed to honor your parents. This can mean different things at different ages. As a young person, under your parents protection, and authority, it will almost always mean obeying your parents. When you are a grown up adult, there may be times when honoring isn’t necessarily obeying. (If your parent tells you to do something sinful or disobedient to God’s word, you should not do it ; so there are limits to this. However you can show an attitude of honor even in the midst of such a difficult situation.)
Honoring parents is something that should always be done. Whether or not your parents are kind, generous and loving human beings they should be honored because because God commands it. It is not about whether or not they “deserve” it because of something they have or have not done. Honor is to be freely given from children to their parents. (Note: It is different from respect, in this way. You can give honor to someone even if your respect for them in some areas has been damaged due to their own character flaws.)
That is not to say that honoring parents is easy. It can be hard. Under some circumstances, it can be very hard. We need strength and grace from God to be able to do it, but with His help, we can.
2. There is a promise.
The promise associated with this commandment is found in the second part of the verse, “that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” This was a promise given specifically to the Israelite nation as they were heading towards their “promised land” in Canaan. I believe that it has application for the modern day followers of Christ, who are also, “heirs to the promise”. There is a sense that, “it will go well with you” as you obey this command, just as there are blessings associated with all obedience to God’s commands.
Though, we all fall short of perfect obedience and it is only by the generous grace of God that we have anything at all, I urge you to obey God in this area out of sincere love for Him. Honor your parents, for in doing so, you honor God.
Resist any temptation to self-righteousness, condescension and a “holier-than-thou” type of attitude around parents who may not yet know Christ in the way you do. Let unbelieving parents (and siblings) be won over by your outstanding behavior. Unload the dishwasher without being asked. Don’t return harsh words for harsh words. Let humility and service be what marks you. Over time your different behavior will likely create an opportunity to share your motivation, and your love for Christ with even the most hostile relatives.
[*This is my second post in a series of posts called “Spring Break Challenge” geared at challenging Christian college students to live intentionally and to make a difference during their break]